Have you ever wondered who how the Bert Gray Road got its name?
The Bert Gray Road (Route 200) was previously known as the Franklin Road, or the Franklin Woods Road. This route was established many generations ago, and historically only a handful of families lived along it. This included a branch of the Simpson family – specifically Richard Simpson (1791-1858) and his wife Lovisa Wooster Simpson (1799-1888). Both were born in Sullivan and spent their lives on a farm here. They had three children: Albert (1820-1873), Eliza (1823-1896), and David Aaron (1825-1915). All three spent their lives on the farm, never marrying. Eliza was a schoolteacher. Aaron, the name he preferred, served in the Civil War with Maine Company A, Coast Guard Infantry alongside the Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin!
He returned from the war intact and ran the family farm for many years. He’d outlived his family and as he grew older, found himself in need of help. So around 1900, Aaron Simpson had his friend Albert Stephen Gray move his family in permanently to help run the farm and take care of Mr. Simpson in the twilight of his years. Bert Gray bought the farm and his family continued to care for Mr. Simpson there. This was an ideal arrangement – Mr. Simpson got to live out his days on his family land, and to see it prosper again as the Pleasant Hill Farm.
Bert Gray was born in 1856 in Sedgwick on a farm there. Later, he became a quarryman, and that is what originally brought him to Sullivan, with his wife Eleanor Mary (“Nellie”) and four children in tow: Sarah, Abbie, Joel, and Linwood. Farming life suited Bert much better, and the kids all helped out. Sadly, in 1907, their son Joel died there at the age of 22 from tuberculosis.
A sawmill was in use for many years there, and the present marshy area used to be a much fuller pond before the road was filled in. The Pleasant Hill Farm was located a little over a mile up the Franklin Road and still encompasses a great area of land. The old farmhouse still stands, and a family cemetery is there as well.
Old Mr. Simpson passed away in 1915, and Bert continued to run the farm until his own passing in 1936. The farm was passed down to his son Linwood who lived there with his wife, eventually becoming a successful merchant. The Grays were a musical family, with a pianist, opera singer, and composer among them, and performances were common at the house.
On a still summer’s night, with the sound of tree frogs and nighthawks in the air, one can almost imagine the faint sound of music emanating from the old farm on the hill and down into the surrounding woods.
Do you have any old photos or memories of the Gray farm? We’d love to hear from you!
Welcome to Tobey Crawford Connor, the new part-time Communications Coordinator for the Sullivan-Sorrento Historical Society!
Tobey joined us in June as a summer intern where she set her considerable skills to digitizing more of our valuable documents.
Starting in September she will manage our internet presence, primarily our website and Facebook page, and continue our popular History Hour presentations in the winter. She will also coordinate getting our annual newsletter sent out and periodic articles for the Sullivan and Sorrento monthly newsletters.
She brings extensive experience in media management and online development and communications, as well as genealogy, research, and museum experience. The history of Downeast Maine is one of her great passions and the focus of her studies as a full-time student at the University of Maine.
In addition to her work with us, she volunteers regularly with other nonprofits. We’re lucky she could fit us in! Tobey and her family live in Sullivan where her two children will attend the new middle school/high school.
This is a baby step for the Sullivan-Sorrento Historical Society, which has been a 100% volunteer effort up to this point. From generous donations and bequests we have a small investment fund with the Maine Community Foundation that allows us to fund this new position for six hours a week.
To Raina Sciocchetti, our Island Institute Fellow who has been with us two years! Raina leaves us this month with a historical society improved beyond what we ever expected when she arrived.
She bumped up our presence on Facebook with frequent fun and interesting bits of Sullivan and Sorrento’s history. People have loved it and responded with fun and interesting bits of history of their own.
She looked under the hood of our very out-of-date website and attacked it with mysterious technological thingies like “search engine optimization” and “parallax scrolling.” Its new, fresh design is attractive, useful, and best of all – easy to use! She created a monthly online “History Hour” for winter evenings when a virtual gathering and information-sharing perked us all up. The speakers gave us new insights into Sullivan and Sorrento’s past and the comments during and after told us this new program was a hit!
Over months of hard work, she transformed our jumbled collection of Sullivan and Sorrento’s history from stacks of mystery boxes and piles of unrelated papers to a well organized, well labeled system. She found treasures we didn’t know we had! Now we can locate things much easier and care for them properly.
She rejuvenated our museum! She muscled big display cases into tight corners, sometimes with help, and filled them with treasures that had been out of sight for twenty or more years. New labels, more lighting. She made us shine!
And so much more.
Raina’s skills and hard work over two years – during a pandemic – gives Sullivan and Sorrento a great jumping-off place to plan for the future of the historical society.
Good luck to Raina as she moves to Boston where she will attend graduate school at Simmons University for Library and Information Science with special studies in Archives Management. We like to think we had a hand in her choice of specialty!
Along with the Fellowship program that brought Raina to us, the Island Institute team was always in the background to offer support, materials, organization, and trouble shooting. The skill and experience of the Fellowship team helped us find focus and make best use of the Fellowship and the resources we have. And now, even with Raina’s leaving, the Island Institute’s Community Leadership Team has stepped up to help us through a “visioning” process to sustain the hard work Raina did for us and to plan for the future. Our thanks to the Island Institute and its outstanding teams!
Raina is our guest speaker at the August 10 program, 7:00pm at the Sorrento Community Building about “Maggie’s Journal.” Also on that evening we will celebrate Raina and her work with a few words of thanks. There will be cake!!!
We hope you can join us for both the program and the celebration.
New season… new exhibits! This summer we are open 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Saturday mornings and 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays. Admission is free, donations always appreciated. We also have postcards, cards, maps, and books for sale.
Our opening this year is extra exciting because this is the culmination of several months of working to haul out the entire room of “stuff” to sort through it all and identify, catalog, and store items. We are especially grateful to the volunteers who assisted with the project and to the folks at Home Depot in Ellsworth, who gifted four shelving units that allowed us to set up a new storage area in the back of the museum for our textiles and large collections.
As we redesigned our museum over the past winter and spring, we came face-to-face with the reality that our wood-and-glass display cases are historic and lovely to look at, but awkward, heavy, and nearly impossible to move. Enter volunteer George Deans, who offered to build platforms with casters under three of our large display cases. The display cases now glide easily, greatly facilitating cleaning, (future) painting in the room, and setting up exhibits. George also turned a bookcase into portable shelving, improved the base of the North Sullivan Post Office, and made a new undercarriage on wheels for the headstone of town father, Daniel Sullivan. Captain Sullivan is on the roll again!
We also want to recognize volunteer, Eben Lenfest, who assisted George with some of the heavy lifting and generously donated several more hours to help Raina, Island Institute Fellow, whenever she desperately needed another pair of hands in the museum.
Our heartfelt thanks to George and Eben for their time, talent, humor, and strong backs that helped us get to opening day!